Guyana is country located in the northeastern corner of South America. Indigenous peoples inhabited Guyana prior to European settlement, and their name for the land, guiana (“land of water”), gave the country its name. Present-day Guyana reflects its British and Dutch colonial past and its reactions to that past. It is the only English-speaking country of South America.
Since Guyana gained its independence in 1966, the country’s chief economic assets have been its natural resources, mainly its pristine rainforests, sugarcane plantations, rice fields, and bauxite and gold reserves. Despite those riches, Guyana remained one of the poorest countries in South America into the first decades of the 21st century, but the country’s economic fortunes changed dramatically in 2015 with the first of a raft of rich Deepwater oil field discoveries in Guyana’s offshore Stabroek Block.
Some geographers classify Guyana as a part of the Caribbean region, which they deem to include the West Indies as well as Guyana, Belize, Suriname, and French Guiana on the South American mainland. The capital and chief port of Guyana is Georgetown.
Guyana’s populace is mainly of colonial origin, although Indians are scattered throughout the forested interior. The more numerous coastal peoples are chiefly descendants of slaves from Africa and indentured workers from India, who were originally transported to work the coastal sugarcane plantations. Ethnic problems between the last two groups have played a disruptive role in Guyanese society.